If You’re Not Writing, You’re Resisting

BookFor a few years now, my husband told me. My business coach did too. Everyone told me I was wasting my time on paid writing work that didn’t fill my soul. But it’s hard when you’re freelancing and getting paid. It’s hard to say, “No” when you don’t know when your next big check will come in. But these were the first two signs. Another one had come years before.

Several years ago, I received a handful of Steven Pressfield’s book. I quickly devoured The War of Art, but it was only when I got into Turning Pro that my life changed dramatically. Here are a few nuggets that started the stone, that rippled across the river and that finally had a big impact on the way I perceived my writing:

“When you sit down to do your work, do you leave our web connection on?

It can be fatal, keeping up with the Kardashians.”

“When we were amateurs, our life was about drama, about denial, and about distraction.”

“We usually think of breath throughs as ecstatic moments that elevate us from a lower level to a higher. And they do. But there’s a paradox. In the moment, an epiphany feels like hell. It exposes us and leaves us naked. We see ourselves plain, and it’s not a pretty picture.”

It’s that last statement that really stuck with me. I realized after reading his book that everything I was getting “busy” doing, finding jobs, taking unfulfilling writing gigs and even playing games on my phone was taking me away from my real dream of publishing a children’s book, short stories and personal essays.

I am ashamed to admit that I bought into the belief that I could get what I wanted without the time and effort involved. I had devoted and sacrificed a lot to get to be freelance writing for the past 9-years. But that took research, networking and time. I didn’t give my next dream that same fervor.

When I read Pressfield’s work, I realized that all the other “stuff” I was doing was another way I was unconsciously distracting myself out of fear. I was embarrassed by the pieces I was sending off before they were given their fair due. I let time fall away from me while I was shopping online or searching for the next big writing gig. After having my second baby and took time off from all of my paid work, I had enough space to reflect on what I was doing-I was getting good at work I didn’t really want to do, and I was moving further away from my dreams.

The good news is that I got the wake up call and on the path now to turning pro. I’m working on the stuff I’m excited about daily. I’m attending conferences, reading books on the topic and writing at home and writer’s group. Thanks to finally waking up, I’m committed and hopefully that will bring me that much closer to my dreams.

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The Courage in Vulnerability

brene-brown

Brené Brown is an expert on everything related to vulnerability. I’ve taken two of her online courses and listened to her SoundsTrue podcast recently. I’m admittedly a big huge fan.

Perhaps, it’s because I’m all too familiar with shame. It sits on my shoulder every time I publish a post, conduct a workshop/meetup or submit my writing. Until I listened to Brown, I hadn’t realized how my cheeks would burn or how embarrassed I was to let my insides show.

Rejection to me doesn’t feel uncomfortable. It feels like a slow death. It’s an end of who I am. It’s a room full of strangers laughing and pointing. It’s a deep inner ache that somehow whatever I’m doing is not enough.

Enter in my dreams and the whole thought of pursuing them seems laughable. Much better to hide behind a boring job. It’s much easier to stay with the same friendships. Way safer to keep the dreams at night and distract myself during the day with mindless activities right?

Anyone who has ever taken a big risk in being vulnerable realizes both the cost and benefit of putting yourself out on the line. You can’t truly live unless you do something that scares you sh$tless. You won’t ever feel like you’ve made your mark unless you do something that makes you feel like an idiot.. Until you risk big, you won’t feel alive.

You may will fail if you choose to live your life. But failing is a good thing. Every rejection letter you receive. Every job opportunity that doesn’t work out. Every editor that tears apart your work. Those are evidence that you are strong, and living your purpose. And there’s definitely no shame, but so much courage in that.

Failing isn’t an end state. It’s one stop on a long journey towards success.

So next time you feel defeated, remember that. Remember that failure is in its own way success. It’s a reminder that you’re fighting the fight. One more failure down, many more to go.

That’s the way we get through our writing dreams. A little bit of blind faith, hard work, and courage to be vulnerable.

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Why I Write

{Photo from caprisco}
{Photo from caprisco}

It’s taken me years to curate enough courage to admit the secret I’ve always known. It was evident in my early obsessions-well-worn books, hardcovers and paperbacks causing a backpack strap indention in my shoulders. It explained why I begged my grandmother for a typewriter and ripped away the crisp holiday paper as if there was a toy underneath. I devoured the book catalog we got in school as if it were a menu, salivating as I thumbed through each delicious page. And while other kids played sports or with their Barbie, I found calm in the click of my new electronic typewriter and the yellowed pages of library books.

I was extremely shy and yet when my high school English teacher argued that my writing was “bad,” I told him with as much courage as my soft voice could muster that he was wrong. I stormed out with a ticket from the admissions office-a free pass to skip his class. I was elated when I discovered the reason for my excused slip-I won a journalism award for my article in our newspaper. My hot flushed face quickly melted into a pool of sweet revenge.

All this and I still waffled between Environmental Science, Business and English in college. I changed majors multiple times. But since I barely passed Accounting and was terrible in Science, I surrendered to the knowledge that I wouldn’t be able to get great grades in anything else but English.

After college, I idled in front of Borders’s career section. It was an ordinary night on the store’s dirty floor when I finally decided to do it. I had always been interested in the psychology behind the characters I read. Plus, I was bored, restless, and fresh out of ideas of what to do next in my hometown of Hawaii. It seemed like the easiest answer in the world to jump on a plane and move my life to California. I had a purpose now. I would get a graduate degree in counseling psychology.

Three years later with my shiny new degree, I was back where I started more in debt, and confused as ever. That’s when I met the woman that would change my life.

She was a friend of a friend I met at a party. There was nothing extraordinary about her or our meeting except that she told me she was a writer. Writer, I thought my heart beating quickly. This time, I couldn’t ignore how I was feeling. It stirred a forgotten desire, which started a domino effect, which turned my full-time job into a part-time gig. In the light of my dreams, I had nil motivation to continue and I finally quit.

It was difficult, but I finally relinquished my need for stability so that I could pursue my dreams. This year marks my 7th year as a freelance writer. I’ve been tempted to give up and get back to mind-numbing corporate work for the stability, the pay, and the ease that comes from a traditional career. But I keep surprising myself in my efforts to stay.

Being a writer is the best and hardest thing I’ve ever done. As I sit down in what seems to be an extremely safe and benign seat, I’m battling my inner critic. I’m stuffing down deep fears that I’m still not good enough. I’m always terrified as I put my fingers to the keyboard. But whether I failed infamously yesterday or mess up catastrophically today, experience has taught me, with certainty saved for nothing else in my life that I will be back here at my computer again tomorrow.

*I will be starting a writer’s group in my area of Mililani and will be offering personal consultation and workshops in 2015.

Subscribe to find out about upcoming Hawaii writer events here.


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My Story

After I got my second degree (my first was a BA in English and then a MA in Counseling Psychology), I reached an inevitable confusion spurred from a lifetime of being a professional student. It was 2006 and I had suddenly wakened from my reverie.

I spent most of my twenties sitting down in the career section of Borders thumbing through guides with titles like, What to Do With Your Life. And now that school was over and my pocketbook showed no chance of going back, I realized it was time to finally answer that question for myself.

In 2007, after a decade of shopping around for the “perfect job, “ I made a commitment to return to a past dream. I put away my assistant hat (there would be no more research assistant, administrative assistant positions for me) and said goodbye to the random ways I chose jobs. That meant no more chance encounters with exciting positions either like the time I worked as a private investigator.

I was ready to pursue my life-long dream of being a writer. Writing had always been a part of my life, whether I was filling the now full ten diaries I had as a child, typing faux news articles on my plastic typewriter or writing poetry something I started doing when I was 7 and then had published in Blue Mountain Arts when I was 27. For a few years, I worked as a copywriter for various online retailers, newspapers and magazines. Last year, I got a job as an associate editor for Psych Central, a position that allowed me to connect my past two degrees.

But what surprised me most about my venture to find my passion and pursue my dreams is the journey that took me there is what inspires me most and what I am most passionate about. And as a result, I created The Inspiring Bee out of pure selfishness. Because I had been on that difficult road to follow my own dreams, I had a profound passion and compassion for those who were struggling to find and pursue theirs. I had a strong belief that everyone had a purpose and fulfilling it would not only make him or her happier, but that the world would be a much better and happier place.

Interestingly enough, I found it serendipitous that once I began to separate myself from the crowd of writers online, my opportunities grew. My husband saw a documentary, for example, on people who were living their dreams. It was so moving to me that I contacted the production company who did the film. I was able to interview Bonnie St. John, an Olympian and an author who had an inspiring story to tell of her life.

Everyone wants to find their purpose, to know that their unique experiences and talents have a reason and a place in this world. I know now that there may not be one dream, but that there are many dreams to pursue like streams in the big river of life. The reason I am so passionate about writing blog posts, connecting with blog readers and continuing to pursue projects that fulfill this purpose is that I have personal experience walking the walk. I grew up in a family who were mainstreamers, working in conventional careers and I stepped away from what was considered normal and took a chance. While the road is bumpy, I learned that sticking to what I am most passionate about is my purpose. If I can use my life and experiences to help others who are going through the same thing and if I can continue to follow the beat of my own drum, then I know for sure I am fulfilling my purpose. And I definitely know that I’m on the right path.

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From Corporate to Freelance Business Writer in Just 30 Years

{found on Pinterest, but originally from Etsy.com}

 

{by guest blogger Cathy Miller}

I cherished my sister’s Nancy Drew books.

Like so many things in a family of seven children, the books I loved were hand-me-downs. Okay, to be honest, they were never mine. But, I read them from cover to cover and back again.

I think it was then I realized I wanted to write. To say there were a few twists in my journey is putting it mildly.

Doomed From the Womb

I am the middle child of those seven, and the first born under insurance.

Little did I know that sealed my fate. I like to say I was doomed from the womb to be in insurance. And that’s what I did – for over 30 years.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with being in insurance. I made a very good living at it and it helped finance my new business.

Practically Speaking

I have two sides – a practical side and a creative side. I like to blame that on my parents. Hey, don’t we blame everything on them? My Dad was the hard-working, support-your-family type of man. My Mom is more of the dreamer, anything’s possible person.

My practical side took over at an early age.

  • I worked the first year out of high school – I didn’t have any idea what direction I wanted to go, and unlike what was the norm, I did not see the point in going to college with no direction
  • I researched fields for a good career choice – that is how I ended up in dental hygiene school (yes, cleaning teeth) – being even more practical, I enrolled in the two-year course so I could start working sooner
  • I switched careers when thrown a curve – I always said I felt I put my brain in mothballs after the hygiene program – when I was laid off because the dentist did not want to pay for my benefits that came with one year of employment, I took that hygiene background and moved into health claims

For the next thirty-four years, I worked for insurance companies, then major consulting and brokerage firms. You name it, I did it – claims, customer service, provider relations, account management, consulting.

But, I had an itch that I barely scratched.

The Words Inside

I have been writing as long as I can remember – even in the insurance/employee benefits industry.

When I worked for insurance companies, I wrote:

  • Training manuals
  • Provider marketing brochures
  • Sales and provider newsletters

When I moved into consulting and brokerage work, I wrote reports and eventually moved into managing communications for sales and client services.

While my creative side snuck into my practical side’s world, I wanted more.

Breaking the Silence

We all have dreams. Mine was to write – whenever and wherever I could. My practical side allowed the creative side in, but largely silenced the dream.

Like any good writer with a flair for drama, my exit from Corporate America involved hitting my breaking point and quitting on the spot. Fortunately, my practical side (and a very understanding boss) had me apologizing for the emotions, but not the outcome.

We worked out a transition until I was officially a freelance business writer – with my former employer as my first client.

So, here I am in a marriage of the practical and creative. Of course, that cannot be the end of the journey. Surprise, surprise, I dream of writing fiction. My freelance business writing is helping me move down that path. Hopefully, it won’t take another 30 years to achieve it.

Regrets? Not really. My mantra is everything happens for a reason. I would not be the person – or the writer – I am without my life’s experiences. I close my personal blog posts with a favorite expression:

Live…Laugh…Love

It’s all about the journey.

======================

Cathy Miller is a freelance business writer with over 30 years of professional writing experience from small businesses to Fortune 500 customers. Cathy started her own business in 2008, providing all forms of online and print business writing. Cathy has a business writing blog at Simply stated business, a health care blog at Simply stated health care and her personal bog, millercathy: A Baby Boomer’s Second Life.

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The One Thing You Should Be Doing as a Freelance Writer

{via pinterest}

When I wrote this list of easy ways I increased my chance to freelance writing success, I neglected something BIG. In fact, it was the number one thing that helped launch my career. And the fastest.

Just this past March, I wrote about how I was on the fence about this one. Looking back, I’m patting myself on the back and singing my “hallelujahs” because had I not done so, I might be singing a whole different tune today.

How I Became the Lone Wolf

When I started freelancing about four years ago, I was way behind the pack. Writers and authors were established, experienced and had a giant leg up on me in terms of social media. Although it was relatively new then, having a website and a blog in its early days seemed to propel a lot of early writers and bloggers into success. Basically, they were fishing in a relatively quiet stream. Today, my blog is one of millions and the fact that you’re even reading this is a blessed thing.

It was watching real estate icon and business mogul Barbara Corcoran on The Nate Berkus Show. It reminded me what sole factor helped me get ahead. She heard Madonna was pregnant and decided to create a report on all the homes Madonna would be looking for. Three news station picked it up and one of them called Corcoran, “the broker to the stars.” She said that was the “game changer” in her career.

Similarly, instead of being just a freelance writer, I zoomed in on what I was most passionate about-people who overcame tremendous obstacles to follow their dreams. My husband DVRed a PBS show on inspiring people. I was so moved that I emailed the producers. Surprisingly, I received a response and contact information of one of the stars on the show. It was author and Olympian Bonnie St. John. She was introducing her book at the time and let me interview her for my first blog 2inspired. That was just the beginning. That interview led to more interviews and more opportunities. I was hooked!

A blog radio show host Cory Clay of Rich Ideas Radio even contacted me. She found my blog and wanted to interview me on what it was like being an “inspiring writer.” It was one of the most thrilling experiences! And I was honored to get the title. Prior to that I had just been pursuing what made my heart beat. I didn’t even think of myself as inspiring, let alone a “real” writer.

Somehow my efforts paid off. I kept following what excited me and writing what I was most passionate about. I also keep in contact with an editor for The Writer magazine. A magazine I loved and an editor who I loved writing for. When the time was right, she gave me the opportunity of a lifetime-a chance to have my own monthly column for the magazine. And what’s it called? Inspiration Zone.

I guess what I learned in the process is that it’s so important to set yourself apart from the crowd. At the beginning, you might be terrified to do so. It’s much easier to align yourself with other experienced and published writers. But the sooner you find your own voice, niche and what fuels you, the closer you will be to freelance writing success.

What was the one thing that helped your freelance writing career soar?

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Spilling the Beans…

via flickr by "The Wanderer's Eye"

Okay, I’ve been keeping a secret for WAY too long. It’s been eating me up inside…

But I think I can finally share at least one of them.

Here’s what it’s not…

  • I didn’t write a book. {Though I hope one day I can reveal a secret like that one.}
  • I’m not quitting freelancing.
  • I don’t have a TV or a book deal. {In my dreams, lol.}
  • I didn’t get an article in Real Simple or Whole Living {Another few I would go crazy happy for.}
  • I didn’t win an award for my writing. {Aw shucks, this is getting depressing.}

Okay back to being serious.

This wish come true is mainly a secret dream I had since I created my sister blog The Inspiring Bee. And since I have been in love with Carrie Bradshaw’s life in Sex and the City.

Humor me with a drum roll please…

I’m getting my own monthly online column for The Writer called “Inspiration Zone” and it’s launching September 21. I hope the news wasn’t anti-climatic. For me, it is a dream come true. And I’m excited to be writing for a magazine that I’ve been subscribing to and gushing over since I was working in a cubicle daydreaming about full-time freelancing.

So that’s my sort-of, BIGish news. *Whew. I feel much better.

Now it’s your turn. Have any good news you’ve been dying to share? I’d love to celebrate in your special news too.

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Bye Bye Borders

photo via pinterest

I spent “last Friday night” doing something a whole lot more conservative than Katy Perry. I got my hair done and had dinner with my husband. On our walk in town afterwards, we stopped by one of the last remaining historical monuments of my generation: Borders.

As we pushed our way through screaming kids and their fed-up parents, I started to reflect on what this bookstore chain has meant to me throughout my life. As I walked through the big black and red signs with big number discounts, I heard friends bemoaning the loss. I saw women huddled in corners grasping onto thick stacks of a paperback books towering in their arms. People meandered in and out of each row in a haze. Some stared intently at every cover making sure not to miss a good buy.

For me, however, the big sale event was bittersweet.

I remembered the field trip to my local Borders when I first started freelancing. My weeks were relatively light back then. I used to hunt for ideas to pitch magazines by spending my afternoons window shopping and thumbing through books and magazines. Although it was a time of instability, it was also a time of inspiration. I look back on those early years with fond memories.

And then there was my twenties. My girl friends and I had many a Saturday night hanging out in Borders. {We were so cool right?} We went there once having drunk a few too many martinis and laughed our way through each section. My belated apologizes to those we annoyed that night.

My favorite memories, however, were the nights one of my closest friend and I would bunker down on the carpet, grab a handful of books and just talk about love and life.

I know there are other bookstores. A lot of better ones too. But this commercialized bookstore has had an impact on my life. It was the container that held me, that offered me advice on anything from cooking to careers. As a dreamer who spent many hours desiring the life that I have right now, it was the place where I felt it all possible. For that, it deserves a moment of silence and reflection and a worthy goodbye.

So bye bye Borders.

I don’t know what will be next. I don’t know if one day we’ll wake up and there’ll be no more physical bookstores. I hope not. There’s nothing like flipping through a new book, the smell of it, the feel of the paper between your fingertips or the towers of books before you as you walk bug-eyed at the possibilities one book can bring.

Yes, I own a Kindle. But in my heart of hearts, it can never replace the tangible feel of a physical book.

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From Full-Time Job to Full-Time Freelancer: One Editor’s True Story

Ever wonder what it would be like to take that next step in your career, to jump into unknown waters or dip your toes into the freelancing world?

If you’re thinking of taking the leap from 9 to 5 to the freedom of freelancing, you’ll love reading this full-time associate editor true story of how freelancing went from “some day” to right now.

Pinterest photo via @Zandri Banks originally from snippetandink.com.

by guest blogger: Melissa Breau

A lot of people think I’m crazy. Just a few weeks ago I was working a full time job as an associate editor at a business-to-business magazine in New York City. I liked my job. I liked the people I worked with. Over the three years I’d worked there, I’d become knowledgeable about the subject–running a retail pet store–and was comfortable.

But comfortable isn’t happy. So I quit.

I thought about becoming a freelancer since college. But I always marked it as something on my list of things to do “someday.” Then, about two years ago, I needed some extra income so that I could make my student loan payments. I considered looking for a waitressing gig, but my boyfriend reminded me that I’d always wanted to freelance–and that it was as good a time as any to give it a try.

So I began taking on projects and marketing my services as a freelancer. I emerged myself in that community and found a number of amazing colleagues, who were freelancing full time and making it work. Several were supporting themselves and their spouses on their income. Their success showed me what was possible–and their advice, guidance and encouragement made me believe it was something I could accomplish too.

Still, freelancing full time remained in the “someday” category. It wasn’t until my boyfriend joined the Navy that I was given both the push and the opportunity to make that someday actually happen.

As I mentioned, I had reached a point at the magazine where I felt comfortable; but I’d learned as much as I felt I could in that position with that company. Freelancing part time, which required me to write a wider variety of pieces, helped me become a better writer–enough so that even my boss at the magazine had noticed and commented on it. I finally felt confident that I had the knowledge and skill to freelance full time, although I knew becoming successful would still require a lot of work.

When Stephen joined the Navy he relocated from New York, where he had been living, to South Carolina–and we began discussing the possibility of me moving too. He would be making enough to help me make ends meet while I got my business off the ground, and once he finished school, the Navy would pay him for housing–housing that we could live together, so once that happened I wouldn’t even have to pay rent. My lease was set to be up in August–basically, that left six months where I’d be out of an apartment but not able to live with Stephen.

I decided to go for it.

I saved enough money to cover my expenses for several months, arranged to stay with my Grandmother in North Carolina while apartment hunting in South Carolina and put in my notice. It’s only my second week freelancing, but so far I love the flexibility and the chance to do something different every day. There’s a steep learning curve, but it’s nice to exchange feeling comfortable for feeling challenged–and I haven’t regretted the decision yet.

BIO: After a year and a half of freelancing part time, Melissa Breau recently left her full time job as a magazine editor to take her part time freelancing business to the next level. She is a freelance writer, editor and a cheesy romantic who likes long walks on the beach and arguing about comma placement.  She is blogging about her freelance journey over at Jargon Writer (www.jargonwriter.com)–or learn more about the services she offers on her website, www.melissabreau.com.

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Saucy Balls

{photo courtesy of NBC.com}

Would you eat at a restaurant called, “Saucy Balls?” That’s what America’s Next Great Fast Food Restaurant hosts Bobby Flay, Curtis Stone, Steve Ells and Lorena Garcia are deciding. A new reality show on NBC is taking fast food restaurants to a whole other level as the four hosts attempt to choose the right person and idea to invest in.

What does fast food have to do with writing? (more…)

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